Thursday, December 08, 2005

A post that weighs more than a metic ton!

Today was pretty chill. I started the day going out with Andy to see Amanda in Bayswater. We were going to go to Camden just for something to do, but we hadn’t even gotten out and around until 1400 or so, and it was raining, so we went to a pub instead. It was amazingly cheap (like £4 for bangers and mash) so we ate lunch while we waited for the rain to stop and chatted. This was the first time the three of us had hung out since we’d left for Nice. It was great out just chill with the two of them again.
Afterward we bummed around Portobello Market for a while, enjoying the outdoor music and not-so-much the crowds. Around 1600 Amanda and Andy both had to split to work so I headed over to Trafalgar’s Square and met Stephanie at the National Gallery. I went in for a few minutes while waiting for her to head outside. The inside was hot, and huge! It must cost a fortune to heat that place!! Really amazing artwork from as early as the 1200s that I saw in the few minutes that I spent in there… I really must go back. After that we decided to wander around in the downtown area. We headed to Holborn (where all the touristy stuff is like Tower Bridge and the London Eye) and wandered around for a couple of hours. We talked and talked… it was really nice to hang out with Steph, we’ve got a lot of history, but we’re really in a good place and have a great friendship now.

There were a number of buskers around (street musicians) and one of them really perked my interest, he was sitting by the OXO building right on the Thames with St. Paul’s in view and the Tate Modern right there and the Millennium Bridge connecting the two, accompanied by the singing was really great. We sat talking and listening to the guy for about 40 minutes and as we left I went to put money in his box and saw that he had CD’s so I bought one of those instead! I haven’t listened to it yet… but I hope its good (I’m pretty sure it is). We headed over by St. Paul’s and Steph took some pictures and we headed to this really great pub called Ye Olde Yorkshire Cheese, but wanted food so we left and went to O’Neill’s (a chain Irish pub) and had some nachos (yum). It was a winding maze of blackened wooden tunnels connecting three or four different restaurants and little bars in this building. Steph and I got beers and waited for Jenn to meet us. She finally got there around 9 and we all enjoyed a beer and talked about the Contiki tour. We headed out shortly with a plan to go somewhere else, but ended up back at Steph’s place and then heading home… We had a trip the next day anyway…

Sunday was the big day of the weekend. Leeds Castle and Rochester for the Charles Dickens Christmas Festival! I got up nice and early to get on the bus, and since the tube was not running to Great Portland Street so G.P., Steph, Kate and I walked from Baker Street, of course stopping by the over-large statue of Sherlock Holmes (he ‘lived’ on Baker St.) to get a picture. After a 90 minute bus ride we alighted for Leeds castle, it wasn’t huge, but it sure was pretty. Stephanie and I paired off and let Amanda, Kate, and G.P. wander around, while we walked back to the hedge maze. We were confident and wandered in the maze making good progress for about 20 minutes until a guy stationed in the maze asked if we give up and we didn’t respond quick enough so he pointed down the next row we were about to head and said, “Go that way… and turn left…” Steph and I were a little put out, but we were on limited time anyway, so we didn’t let it bother us. The centre of the maze was a mound with kind of a goonies-type well below it! We went down into the well and there was a giant face of a bearded man made of rock with a waterfall pouring down over it. Very cool, but the light made it so there was no picture to be taken.

On the way back toward the castle we headed into a bird aviary, and saw a number of colourful birds including parrots, and scarlet macaws, even a set of toucans! They were really pretty, and we mused that they should be named Sam… After the aviary we headed back to the castle, seeing Kate on the way and stopping to take a few pictures. The castle itself was not as impressive or as large as Warwick castle, so we felt a little crestfallen, but it was still pretty. We wandered for a while, looking at the cool rooms and the great views, even enjoying the moat that was still in place outside the castle, until we headed back to the bus to go to Rochester.

We arrived and were a little sceptical, it was the town of Dickens (and I’ve never read Dickens) and there was even a Christmas Festival going on as well. People were dressed up in Dickens era attire and everything. We started with a tour led by a guy that seemed to be a little scattered, so after about 45 minutes when he said to meet him on the other side of the carnival (yes there were stalls and even a Ferris wheel) we buggered off instead. GP, Steph, Kate, Amanda, Morgan and I were all hungry so we tried a pub, but there were so many people there was no way we’d make it in. Finally, we broke down and went to a stand run by the Lions club and got hot mulled wine and I bought a mince pie which we drank while finding something to eat. We found a burger stand over by a bagpipe band and all of us got food and sat listening peripherally. Steph and I were really giddy because of the atmosphere, there was a fifer on the street, people dressed up, and we even recognized some of the bagpipe tunes! The others were convinced that we were dorks all the way (rightly so).

After the burgers we headed over to the craft show, but it cost money to get in, so we wandered the streets looking at the people dressed up and glancing in shop windows, just enjoying the scenery and atmosphere in general. Shortly, a man sitting in an armchair on wheels came rolling by, pulled by another man rickshaw-style down the main street. The man in the chair was singing Christmas carols and was painted up (I assume he was supposed to be Scrooge). They stopped at Stephanie and the pull-man kissed her on the cheek while the Scrooge asked her if she’s been “naughty or nice” and before she could give a proper reply, “a little bit of both I’d wager…” he shouted into is mic with a laugh. Then he kept down the road singing again and yelling insults and generally being crude, how marvellous.

Going back down the road we were all still hungry so we found a church on a side street selling food and entered. In the line I asked the small girl behind the counter about the topping of some delicious looking pieces of cake, “It’s a Christmas cake, [the topping] he thinks is cinnamon, but I don’t think so…” motioning the boy next to her, it was so cute with her little English accent (she was probably 10) that I had to buy some cake, plus it was cheap! I also bought a Cornish pasty from the boy, and then some Cadbury hot chocolate with coloured marshmallows. The food was amazing, and after eating until we were thoroughly full we wandered back toward the main street; stopping to enjoy a group of chimney sweep singers. Another Scrooge was with them (although this one looked more like a natural Scrooge since he was without makeup) and they began to make fun of the crowd and sing ‘The 12 Days of Christmas.’ After they’d moved on we made it to the main street and saw the Phantom of the Opera (or a man dressed such) singing, and not well I’d add… She wanted a picture with him, so we got ready and he started to get in positions including one that made it look like he was kissing her. He commented that we should send him a picture in his place in London where he was an understudy for the real Phantom! He was a bit drunk… more than a bit.

We finally got away from his horrible singing that just kept spilling from his drunken lips, and got in a position for the parade. All of the characters walked in a procession down the street and then up to Rochester Castle. The parade was pretty cool, though short, and after we all headed for the bus.

Monday was a good day at work, but after a long day at work and then doing nothing, Kristen and I got in a bit of a tiff, but the next morning she set sent me flowers at work... I was pretty upset, but in a good way, she can’t afford that. We really settled a bit there while fighting, but I think it would have happened eventually… Tuesday at work was boring again, but after was the best part. I called Grandma and talked to her for about a half-hour! I told her all about the Ultimate European trip and she was so excited she was getting me excited and from our conversation my parents later requested that she be able to use my computer to read my blog. I miss my family… Then after I got off the phone with her I randomly decided to call Jacqui, and she answered!! I talked to her for about fifteen minutes for the first time in weeks. It really made my day. I called Amanda as well because I’d just topped up that day and we decided to hang out that night and have dinner at her place. On the way there I met Morgan at random on the underground! We chatted n the way back to Bayswater and after arriving waited for Amanda. I ended up having a stir fry dinner with them (the rice was yummy though clumpy) and we decided that it was the rice’s fault… stupid rice. Then I fixed her computer so it could access her Brazilian landlords wireless, and we some of the night transferring music from my iPod to her computer, and then listening to the iTunes Music stores Billboard Top 100 from 1982, 83, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, and 97. It seems like a lot, but we didn’t listen to all of them, and we determined that 94 and 96 were really big years, and that the 90s was a slow decade for new music. I headed home in a great mood and went to bed around 2.

Wednesday: Went home, did nothing. Jenn came over, had dinner and then we wandered around London. In nearly the same places as Steph and I had two nights before. IT was nice to walk around, but I am afraid that I am starting to habituate to this environment; it wasn’t as amazing as I usually think it is… It is starting to lose its value as places to see. I am getting bored of it, more restless sooner… it’s kind of scaring me, because I really enjoy, enjoying these sites… We went over to London Town Hall and saw the Earth from the Air exhibit. I love it. I think it is beautiful and educational. It makes me think a lot about my life and other lives. It’s an incredible exhibit. I wish I could show everyone I know… Maybe I can… There are pictures of the Earth taken by this artist as s/he flew around in various countries in a helicopter. Some are natural formations or animal things; some are human made formations like dying vats in Singapore, just incredible pictures. Sometimes the people in them are just going about their business sometimes they are gazing skyward at the camera in the helicopter… We were there for about 45 minutes look at pictures and learning about the destruction of the Earth, both in the environment and in humanity… for example Hundreds (they had the number but I don’t remember) of kilos of cereal is produced per person every year, but 40 million people a year die of hunger, or Every year [some number in hectares] of natural forest disappear every year (more than the size of Florida), or one of my favourites, 90% of the people in the world have never made a telephone call. I like the exhibit a lot, and there are a few key people I wish I could bring to it… unfortunately that is not possible. We left there we went across Tower Bridge and in the end I got one pound chips and went home.

Thursday was another boring day at work, but it was busy at least. I spent most of the day in Etienne’s office (another guy I work with) because he is off for the week doing some of the work he left for me. I was putting newsletters in envelopes, putting pre-printed labels on them, sealing them, and scanning documents into the picture. It was fun… actually it wasn’t too bad because I had my iPod and on it… Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince! It was amazing!

After work I headed over to Westminster to go to a choir concert at the Abbey, but it turned out that they only had £17 tickets left. This meant that we were to go to plan B, St Martin in the Fields, but that fell through as well. We ended up back in Bayswater having amazing nachos at a pub and then heading home. It was so great!! Then I spent time on this travelogue and get to go to bed early! Yay!!

1 comment:

Litzner said...

great to see that you and Steph are having a great time in London and the surrounding countries. Most people would probably complain about the length of your entries, but the length gives me something to do for about ten to fifteen minutes during my boring days of unemployment in Kansas. I hope everything continues to go well for you and your friends across the pond. take care.
~Mike